The Scourge of PTSD

Like most Marines who have served in combat or experienced extreme, life altering, uncontrollable situations, I suffer from the affects of PTSD. With help, I’ve learned that it isn’t necessarily the event itself that causes the problem, but how we choose to allow it to affect our well being that really makes the difference.

I first began to have difficulties shortly after my first tour in Vietnam in 1967. At that time I would rely upon alcohol and bravado to get past the worst of symptoms, and it seemed to be the accepted treatment. I would go through another year and a half in Vietnam and it was 1980 before I first seen a Navy psychiatrist at the New London Submarine Base while I was on recruiting duty in Hartford CT. In 1983 I tried an Air Force psychiatrist while stationed at McDill AFB with USCentCom. Both misdiagnosed the condition as “life circumstances,” gave me some pills, a slap on the ass, and on my way. After I had retired from the Marine Corps I sought help from the Veterans Administration, who insisted on inpatient treatment with a large group of mostly losers and malingerers whose strategy was to complete the 30 days treatment plan and be awarded 100% service connected disability. I left against medical advice after five days of absurdity and swore to never step foot inside another VA medical facility.

At last, in 2001 I found my saviors in Dr. William Reed and Social Worker Dick Hefley. Dr. Reed had actually once worked for the VA, but left in disgust of the politics of the system. Dick had served in the Army with the Americal Division in the I Corps of Vietnam. Through a combination of medication and talk therapy over a number of years these men literally saved my life. I would like to share with you what they taught me over several years.

The goal, if possible, is to learn how to accept and deal with the circumstances of your situation without dependency on medications to exist day to day. Here are those lessons:

1. Nothing can change what happened to cause your PTSD. History is written in stone and no one has the ability to go back and change it. You must learn to accept it and deal with it in as positive a manner as possible.

2. There is no magic pill that will make it all go away, or change your memory. Medication can be used to treat the symptoms and ease the anxiety while you work to deal positively with the problem.

3. Avoid at all costs the “poor me” attitude which often accompanies PTSD after a period of time. It will only make it more difficult to obtain true lucidity.

4. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it!!! Only through talk therapy can you convince yourself that you can deal positively with the things that happen to you.

Of course, I realize that I am not a psychiatric practitioner and that every case and person is different to some extent.

By: MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!

19 comments


  • G. Willard 0311, 8651/0321, 8511,….

    The VA implemented HBOT in 2017 for a subset of PTSD Vets that experienced no decrease of symptoms from at least two of the then current evidenced-based treatments. Don’t know who figured out that increased oxygen worked for more than just the bends, but that’s pretty amazing.


  • G Willard 0311, 8651/0321, 8511,….

    That’s funny. I guess the infantry Soldiers like “11 bang bang” (11-Bravo), kinda like our “grunt”. We’ve got 6 Marines, rest Soldiers in one of our PTSD groups. All brothers.


  • G. W.

    Although part of the VA, Vet Centers since their inception in 1979 (thanks to our generation), are exclusively mental health centric: readjustment, PTSD, family, employment, etc. Ours is like walking into a family members home, a smile and “come on in”, as I’m sure yours is. Amazing.


  • Reinhold Woykowski

    I am ( not) a combat Veteran but went into the Marines in 1972 and got out in 1974. During that time I started to see the Vets return and being discharged out of the Corp. I was only 18 at the time and some of theses men who were just a few years older than me, but they looked like they were already in their 30’s. I said to myself, what the hell happen over there. Some of them looked so sick and broken. They were paid and just let out to get on a bus or what ever. I know they needed some kind of help but there didn’t seem to be much of anything offered. Maybe talk to a Chaplin (if) that was even offered. Semper Fi


  • Ken Bouchard

    I had two cousins that were in the Corps during WW II one served on Iwo Jima and the other on Bougainville. I like them
    found that staying busy helps with the effects of PTSD; simple put your combat experiences will remain in that Brownie Camera called your brain until the day you die, you just have to manage the effects.

    SF


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